30 December 2005

Year For Big Decisions, Hard Choices

Derry Journal

By Sean Mclaughlin
Thursday 29th December 2005

2006 WILL be a year for big decisions and hard choices in Irish politics. This is the view of three of the North's key political leaders --the SDLP's Mark Durkan, Sinn Fein's Mitchel McLaughlin and Gregory Campbell, of the DUP --who believe the next 12 months will throw up many challenges for the stymied political process.

Speaking to the 'Journal' last night, the three politicians were in agreement that many opportunities were missed in 2005. However, when asked to reveal how existing difficulties and obstacles can be overcome, their opinions tend to differ --and dramatically. Derry MP Mark Durkan says the new year must be marked by "solid progress and real advance". "We have to move beyond the posture politics and blame games which have undermined the delivery of the Agreement over the past number of years," he said. "We need all parties to get real about their own responsibilities and the opportunities that exist for all of us if we go forward democratically together. "I am not naive about the problems created by the positions of other parties or the performance of government. But none of these problems are reasons for staying in stalemate." Mr. Durkan says the British and Irish governments should begin 2006 by making it "clear and credible" that "we are in a countdown to the restoration of the [Good Friday] Agree-ment's institutions." "Parties need to move beyond spin, excuse and pose and show each other and the public what they are really up for in terms of democratic sharing in the North, North-South co-operation, policing, equality and human rights."

Foyle Assemblyman Mitchel McLaughlin is convinced that 2006 must herald the end of direct rule in the North. He says the "problems and missed opportunities" of 2005 must be exchanged for "progress and stability" during 2006. "Sinn Fein is determined to maintain the pressure where it is required - and that is on the two governments," he said. "We will not be snared into petty party political mudslinging that only deflects from the serious business of holding the two governments to account. "It is the governments, in the absence of devolved institutions, that have the power to deliver on the spirit of the Agreement." Mr. McLaughlin, Sinn Fein's general secretary, says his party remains determined to end British direct rule and to "correct the bad decisions imposed by un-accountable ministers." He also urged the DUP to share power with republicans.

Gregory Campbell, meanwhile, is convinced that hard choices will have to be faced by republicans in the year ahead. The DUP MP told the 'Journal': "If the Provisional republican movement thought last year was hard, then they need to prepare themselves for the next 12 months as more tough choices will have to be made. "It's either bank robberies or Budget announcements - but they cannot have both; it's either killing outside a Belfast bar or creating a better economy - but not both," he said.

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